Sharks are friends. Not food.
Every year, over 100 million sharks are being killed. That is the same as the number of people in the UK and Canada combined being needlessly killed for food, killed for medicine, killed by pollution, killed by mistake, killed out of fear.
The all-time classic film, Jaws, is the 9th highest grossing film of all time (once inflation has been accounted for) and is regarded as one of the best films ever made. But one unintentional effect of the film was the instilling of fear and hatred towards one of the ocean’s most glorious animals.
Since 1958, there have been 439 fatal shark attacks on humans, which averages at around 7 people per year. This is fewer than the number of people killed by the hippopotamus every year. It is also fewer than the number killed by horses, which kill around 20 people per year, and cows, which kill 22 people per year in the US alone. In the UK, we have 21 species of shark and millions of individuals, but we have never had a recorded attack on our shores. Despite this, people see footage of a 9ft blue shark that has strayed into coastal Cornish waters and begin to panic. It is sad to say but the animal you should be much more fearful of is us – Homo sapiens. We kill over 475,000 of our own species every year…
The fishing industry is a big killer of sharks. As with dolphins, millions of sharks are unintentionally caught every year, either accidentally getting tangled in fishing nets and gear, or being attracted by the struggling fish and suffocating after becoming trapped. The best way to reduce this happening is by reducing the seafood in your diet: less fishing will lead to less demand and fewer consequent shark deaths.
We must also consider the shark fin trade, which is responsible for up to 75% of all sharks killed. Fishermen catch the sharks, quickly butcher off their fins and then throw the living shark back in to the water to suffocate. These fins are used for shark fin soup, a dish extremely popular in China and the surrounding region which is part of an industry worth up to $1 billion every year. This trade is already banned in many western territories but more needs to be done. In other countries like Thailand, campaigns to raise awareness of the damage this trade is causing have resulted in 25% reductions. Education is key! You may never even consider eating shark fin soup, or you may be ambivalent towards sharks, but it is down to each and every one of us to spread awareness of the devastation that shark finning causes.
A final big killer of sharks is pollution. This is all down to us, shark fin soup or not. Plastic, chemicals and other waste are causing havoc for all species in the ocean. We all know about the plastic problem and are starting to make a change, so I won’t add more to the conversation for now. The important thing is not to become immune to the news and continue working to reduce our consumption and use of plastic products.
Getting involved is the best way to help sharks, so get online and learn about these wonderful creatures, where they live, how little they want to come near your scary human self and then spread the word about them! Download the Shark Trust’s ‘Eggcase Hunt’ app to get involved as a citizen scientist to help save sharks and rays. Stop creating plastic waste. Reduce your fish diet and buy responsibly. Adopt a shark or donate. If we all do that then sharks are saved! Easy, right?